Chapter 137: Peace of mind

Tan Lingyun spat her report. “They’re all back. All but that Lan Jue. I don’t know what his problem was, he said he wanted to help and ran out in to the forest. I sent Wang Hongyuan after him. Oh, right – and it turns out our dance instructor is a powerful adept. His discipline is vampirism and darkness. Around level seven. I don’t think he’ll have any problems.”

“Alright. Get on the ship, do a headcount. When we’re all together we’re on the move. We need to get the hell out of here. Suddenly this place is crawling with monsters. It’s unclear where they came from, but they release some sort of poison that eats away at everything it touches. The one I encountered was comparable to a level six adept.

“Got it.” Tan Lingyun nodded and made her way in to the cabin. She busied herself with settling the teachers and counting how many remained.

Ten minutes later Wu Junyi joined them.

“Lingyun, how many?” He asked the mecha instructor.

“Including the two of us,” she said, “thirty seven. Three are missing. Wang Hongyuan and Lan Jue aren’t back yet. There’s only one entirety unaccounted for.”

Wu Junyi’s eyes were heavy with regret. “That teacher’s dead, killed by the monster’s poison. Now we’re just waiting for the other two to get back. Have you tried their communicators?”

Tan Lingyun growled angrily. “These two morons. Their coms are turned off. I haven’t been able to reach them.”

Wu Junyi felt his heart tighten. “We’re out of time. Just now I spotted another one of those things headed our way. Get the flight crew to prep lift-off. I’ll go get those two, and you bring the rest back to Skyfire.” He nearly leapt from the cabin entrance to go search for the others.

“Director, wait a moment,” Tan Lingyun called after him.

“Huh?” He stopped and turns his head back to look at her. Suddenly the world was spinning, and when he got his bearings, he was smashing against the interior cabin wall.

“I’m sorry, Director. When I get back you can expect my formal apology. But those two belonged to my group, and I’m responsible for their safety. Hurry and bring the others safely back home.” Her voice grew quiet with every word, as she shouted back at him while running towards the tree line.

“This damn woman!” Wu Junyi was livid, but there was no time to chase after her and argue. Standing at the cabin hatch he could see that magenta light creeping upon the horizon.

He looked back at the teachers behind him; scared, tired, and still in danger. He stomped a foot in impotent anger. “Close the doors! We’re getting out of here.”

Wu Junyi was the Teaching Director. He cared for each of his teachers, but he had to keep the health and safety of the majority in mind. Right now, he had no other choice: Getting most of his employees to safety was the other thing he could do.

ζ

Lan Jue tore through the forests. Flickering bolts of electricity snaked just behind his eyes. Thor’s Promise glowed upon the pinky finger of his left hand, calling out to the massive mecha.

Lan Jue’s condition meant he had to rely on his control over Thor. That would be his greatest chance at combat effectiveness. Even now, the sapphire mecha was defending a group of tourists from two alien beasts. It would be a moment before it could come fetch it’s master.

“You idiot, head back to the ship! What do you think you can do for these people?” The angry voice shouted at him from behind. Someone grabbed the collar of his shirt.

“Let go! You’ve already got enough enemies, don’t give me a reason to kick your ass,” Lan Jue snarled.

“You, beat me?” Wang Hongyuan only laughed. “You have your own problems too. Ever since you got here Jin Yan hasn’t given me the time of day. It’s I who should beat the piss out of you.”

Wang Hongyuan stopped when he felt his grasping hand suddenly go numb. Before him Lan Jue’s body became indistinct, then vanished. He reappeared five meters away.

“You’re an adept?” Wang Hongyuan stared at him in surprise.

How could he not be? Ever since Lan Jue had arrived at the college Wang Hongyuan had been furtively watching him. But in the time since he’d felt no evidence of Discipline from him. He assumed he was just a normal man. Only now, in this moment, was his power revealed. For him to be capable of hiding his abilities for so long – not only from Wang Hongyuan but from everyone… he didn’t know what it meant.

There were only two possibilities. Perhaps Lan jue’s Discipline was specifically tailored towards concealment. Or, perhaps, he was that much stronger than Wang Hongyuan himself.

Lan Jue regarded him calmly, and spoke in a quiet voice. “Please return to the ship, Professor Wang. I have no interest in Professor Jin, just a normal working relationship. How you feel about her is your business, and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t vent your anger on me in the future. Right now Taihua is experiencing a crisis, and I can’t in good conscience turn tail and flee. I need to go and help those who are still in danger. When you do return, I ask that you keep my secret.”

He truly did not like Wang Hongyuan in the least, but whatever the man’s attitude towards him he’d chased after Lan Jue to ensure his safety. When it came to making the right moral decision, Professor Wang had made the proper choice. His estimation of the man had risen considerably as a result.

“What can you, one person, do?” Wang Hongyuan shot back, anger written on his face.

Lan Jue smiled at him in reply. “Sometimes a single person’s power simply isn’t enough. But if we all thought that way, we’d only ever be able to suffer problems – not rise against them. I don’t know how much I can accomplish, but by doing what I can at least I wont have any regrets. Peace of mind.”

Lan Jue rose in to the air, surrounded by electrical flashes of light. They flickered, and suddenly he was soaring towards the recesses of the forest.

Wang Hongyuan stood frozen, staring blankly at the space where the man had been. Lan Jue’s words fought through his stubborn head, and suddenly he stomped a foot. A strange red light crept up through his eyes. His right hand rose, and fished a necklace out from within his collar. He yanked viciously, snapping the chain.

He slowly stretched out his hand, and revealed the pendent therein. More accurately, it was a ring – silver, with a blood red gemstone set within it. It was no ruby, for as he watched it pulsed with a gentle red light.

Wang Hongyuan solemnly slipped the ring onto the index finger of his left hand. He lifted his arm high overhead.

A column of red light burst towards the heavens, and where it passed space seemed to ripple. Lan Jue, not far off, felt the powerful wave bloom behind him. He turned his face back in surprise in time to see the beam fire off in to space.

As he watched, a sanguine-colored figure slowly appeared from the light, growing to enormous proportions.

A mecha, it’s body a shimmering blood red, rose perhaps eighteen meters in to the sky. It was slender, and from it’s back flowed a scarlet cloak. It fluttered with the wind, composed of some unknown material that flowed like a waterfall of blood. The whole thing emitted a cocoon of crimson light.

The sanguine mecha was joined with two black halos. They were seamless, and where the mecha stood it was as though they sucked the surrounding light within them. It made everywhere the machine passed appreciably darker.

A beam of red light shown down on it from the heavens. Within it, his bat-like wings beating against the wind, Lan Jue spied Wang Hongyuan making his way towards the mecha’s open cockpit.

An emperor-class mecha?

Lan Jue knew instinctively the class of mecha by virtue of his experience. What he did not expect was that Wang Hongyuan was actually capable of piloting one. It meant he, too, was likely emperor-ranked.

“You aren’t the only one who can display gallantry,” Wan Hongyuan muttered. His voice sounded like it was right by Lan Jue’s ear, carried by a beam of red light.

A small smile spread across the contours of Lan Jue’s face. He stretched out his right hand, giving the distant mecha a big thumbs up. “A true man, Professor Wang.”

“You’re still looking to get thrashed?” Wang Hongyuan shot back, indignant. “Hurry up. If you want to help stop wasting time talking nonsense. It looks like mine is the only mecha on this planet anyway…”

As the final syllable left his lips, the red mecha shuddered to life and lifted it’s head. A dazzling blue light met it’s assertions with a thunderous boom, crashing to the floor not thirty meters from where Wang Hongyuan stood.

“Two mechas.” Lan Jue’s smile turned in to a self-satisfied smirk. An azure blue light burst from the center of Thor’s chest and enveloped Lan Jue.

Wang Hongyuan only saw the polished blue surface undulate somewhat, then both Lan Jue and that beam were gone.

The guy actually brought a mecha also? And using space technology power gems. This mecha…

Wang Hongyuan was rather proud of his own mecha, Idoloclast. But his own thin, eighteen-meter mecha looked minute next to the twenty-two meter beast beside it.

Bolts of undulating lightning snaked up Thor’s conductive surface. It’s very presence was almost stiflingly oppressive. Waves of powerful energy came and went from it like the tide. The world around it seemed to warp from the unstable energies it released.

This… this can’t be…

Wang Hongyuan stared slackjawed at the towering Thor.

“Professor Wang, let’s get going. No time to waste. Follow me!” Lan jue’s powerful voice echoed forth from Thor. In a flash of light, the sapphire mecha was barreling in to the distance.

Wang Hongyuan was nearly struck dumb in amazement, but he did as instructed and urged Idoloclast in to flight.

“Incoming communication.” The mecha’s A.I. filled Idoloclast’s cockpit, and Wang Hongyuan answered.

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